Civil Rights and Labor History Consortium / University of Washington

Eugene Vrana oral history
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Eugene Vrana served for many years as the archivist and educational director of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. Born in 1942, he is the son of two of America's most famous Communist Party leaders, Eugene and Peggy Dennis. HIs father was arrested under the Smith Act when Gene was young and spent five years in federal prison.

Gene attended the University of Wisconsin in the early 1960s and became active in radical politics on and off the campus.

Moving to San Francisco in 1965, he worked as a journalist, attended graduate school for a while, and began working on the waterfront as a member of ILWU Local 10. A serious injury in 1982 eventually forced him to leave longshore work. He earned an advanced degree in archives administration and went back to work for the ILWU as the librarian at the union’s international headquarters. In that position he helped make the ILWU archives into one of the most extensive and respected union archives anywhere. He retired from that position in 2010.

When friends of Harry Bridges decided to honor his legacy by creating the Harry Bridges Chair and Center for Labor Studies at the University of Washington, Gene Vrana became actively involved, and has served for many years on the Bridges Center Visiting Committee. In 2009 Vrana helped launch the campaign to create the Labor Archives of Washington State. He currently serves on the LAWS Advisory Committee.

In a videotaped interview conducted by James Gregory on November 13, 2010, Gene Vrana talked about growing up in the Red Scare, about his parents and the older brother who had grown up without them in the Soviet Union, about his life of activism, work on the waterfront, and archivist career.

To the right are streaming-video excerpts of the interview. Video editing by Derek Creager.